Battle of Britain Books - Recommended reading

One of the popular methods of research is through good reference books. Of course for the most accurate information that you require would be from the genuine records that are held at the Public Records Office at Kew in London. But we have to appreciate that not everybody has access to the PRO, especially those that are living overseas or those that are not in a position to get to London. We do therefore have to rely on our historians that publish the results of their research in books.

We must emphasis here that although books are an excellent source of reference, you should not solely rely on them for accuracy. Many books, even the best of them have been known to have errors. For this reason it pays to always cross-reference the results of your research.

Listed below are a number of excellent reference books that are used in the study of the Battle of Britain. Most are available in all the good military bookshops although we should state that some may be out of print.

If you need to find a military bookstore in your area, you may find one using one of the good Internet search engines such as "Google" and type in the keywords 'Military Bookshop' followed by the area in which you live. It works for some, but maybe not all but its worth a try.

The Books

TITLE: The Most Dangerous Enemy - A History of the Battle of Britain
Author: Stephen Bungay
ISBN: 1 85410 721 6
PUBLISHER: Aurum Press Ltd, 25 Bedford Avenue, London WC1B 3AT

 

 

 

 


TITLE: The Fallen Few of the Battle of Britain
AUTHOR: Nigel McCrery & Norman Franks with Edward McManus
ISBN: 978 1 47382 787 5
PUBLISHER: Pen and Sword Books Ltd. 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorks, S70 2AS Email: enquiries@pen-and-sword.co.uk


 

 

 

 


TITLE: A History of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association - Commemorating The Few
Author: Geoff Simpson
ISBN: 978 1 78159 387 5
PUBLISHER: Pen and Sword Books Ltd. 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorks, S70 2AS Email: enquiries@pen-and-sword.co.uk

 

 


TITLE: Finding The Few - some outstanding mysteries of the Battle of Britain investigated and solved
AUTHOR: Andy Saunders
ISBN13: 9781906502533
PUBLISHER: Grub Street Publishing4 Rainham Close, London SW11 6SS



 

 


TITLE: Fighter Pilot
Author: Helen Doe
ISBN: 978 1 4456 4611 4
PUBLISHER: Amberley Publishing, The Hill, Stroud, Glos GL5 4EP (www.amberley-books.com)

 

 

 


TITLE: A Pilot’s Life in Active Service from 1930-1954
AUTHOR: Raimund Puda
ISBN: 978 1 784555 351 (Paperback) ISBN 978 1 784555 375 (Hardback)
PUBLISHER: Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5LQ Tel: 020 7038 8212

6.99 for the paperback & 12.99 for the hardback

 

 


TITLE: Images of War, Luftwaffe Bombers in the Battle of Britain. Rare photographs from Wartime archives
Author: Andy Saunders
ISBN: 978 1 78303 024 8
PUBLISHER: Pen and Sword Books Ltd. 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorks, S70 2AS Email: enquiries@pen-and-sword.co.uk

14.99

 

 


TITLE: Men of the Battle of Britain
AUTHOR: Kenneth G. Wynn
ISBN: 978-1-47384-767-5
PUBLISHER:
Frontline Books

This is a new version published in 2015. It is the ideal book if you are researching those pilots that served operationally during the Battle of Britain. This book lists a short profile with all the relevant information on each pilot. Name, rank, serial number, squadrons served in, number of claims, status and personal history if he survived the war including promotions and dates and awards and dates. A hard cover book containing 606 pages.


TITLE: Battle of Britain - Then & Now
EDITOR: Winston Ramsey
ISBN: 0 900913 46 0
PUBLISHER: After The Battle Press

What has become one of the most popular books in recent years is this book which is one of many in the 'Then & Now' series. Used by all serious enthusiasts of the Battle of Britain this book has to rank as one of the best research tools that covers this historical period. It is very accurate with very few errors and is a chronological daily listing of every day of the Battle of Britain providing details of just about every crash or loss of both the RAF and the Luftwaffe. A hard cover book that contains 816 pages of which 219 of them provide airfield histories. Also included is over 1,700 photographs of images taken during 1940 and the same location today as a comparison. Buy it- it's worth every penny!


TITLE: The Blitz-Then & Now
EDITOR: Winston Ramsey
ISBN: 0 900913 45 2
PUBLISHER: After The Battle Press

Another great reference book in the "Then & Now" series. This book can be treated as a companion book to "Battle of Britain - Then & Now" as this book covers the same period. Starting on September 3rd 1939, this book gives a day to day account of damage done by German bombers all over Britain, crash sites of German aircraft, type and amount of bombs that were dropped and air raid warnings were given and where. As well as this, there are 19 separate articles ranging from evacuation through Hitler's Secret Weapon to all the different types of bombs that were dropped and their construction. There are three volumes in this comprehensive series. Sept 3 1939 - September 6 1940, September 7 1940 - June 21 1941 and June 22 1941 - May 8 1945. With 336 pages and over 1,000 photographs in hard cover this first volume is the ultimate reference tool.


TITLE: Battle of Britain
AUTHOR: John Frayn Turner
ISBN: 1 85310 994 0
PUBLISHER: Airlife Books

Written by a man that served with the Royal Navy and this book is one of 24 books authored by John Frayn Turner. Ten books in this collection relate directly with the Royal Air Force and WWII. Although very well written, contains a number of rarely seen photographs it does itself relate closely with the squadrons associated with the Duxford Wing. It is a book worthy of being in anybody's collection but it does not fall into the category as a full Battle of Britain reference book. The pilot accounts are excellent and most are told in first hand and John Frayn Turner has done well in his description of many of the day to day events. The book does not include any appendices containing the fine details of the Battle, but then...these are often repeated over and over, same details but figures that can often be disputed.
176 pages in a hardcover bound book.


TITLE: The Narrow Margin
AUTHOR: Derek Wood & Derek Dempster
ISBN: 0 85052 915 8
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword Books

Possibly the first complete account of the Battle of Britain that was first published in 1961 and has now been reprinted. Often called "The Bible" because of all details and most of the 1969 film was inspired & based on this book. Still one of the best reference materials available, it still contains much information that present day accounts do not cover. It must be realised that a lot more information has come to light since this book was first published. Everything is covered; aircraft, personnel, tactics, aircraft and pilot losses as well as a day to day account of the battle. Also includes a full listing of "The Few". Available from Pen and Sword Books Barnsley, South Yorkshire and possibly from all good bookstores throughout GB.


TITLE: Battle of Britain
AUTHOR: Len Deighton
ISBN: 0 224 01826 4
PUBLISHER: Jonathon Cape Books

Len Deighton has written some great books over the years, "Fighter" is one of his best and is reviewed below. This book is possibly aimed at the young, and/or the uninitiated as it much easier to read than most research books on the market today, including others written by Len Deighton. There is a history of the Battle of Britain, the rise of both the RAF and the Luftwaffe, the aircraft and weapons of both sides, a considerable amount of quotes by pilots of both sides, plenty of diagrams and cutaway drawings and a brief look at the events after the Battle of Britain. Hard cover book with 224 pages. Recommended although there is not enough information for the advanced student.


TITLE: The Few:Summer 1940, The Battle of Britain
AUTHORS: Philip Kaplan & Richard Collier
ISBN: 0 297 84345 1
PUBLISHER: Orion Publishing

This very interesting book was first published in 1989 but this special edition co-written with Richard Collier was published in 2002 making one of the later books on the Battle of Britain. Not only is this book well written, it is also superbly laid out with an informative, easy to read text, aircrew quotes and antidotes and comments on the left or right hand side of each page, over 70 historical photographs and drawings and over 100 coloured photographs of the various locations of battle scarred buildings that we have to come to accept that one day progress will take them away for ever.

Many old wartime posters are reproduced, torn and tattered as the years past have eaten their quality away but are reminders of how life was seen in that summer of 1940. This is a must read book, it is packed with information such as reports and extracts from the diaries of "The Few"


TITLE: Battle of Britain
AUTHOR: Richard Townshend Bickers
ISBN: 1 84065 081 8
PUBLISHER: Salamander Books

This title comes in two versions, one is a text only publication (cover shown) with only 18 photographs, while the other contains numerous charts, diagrams and many photographs. The diagrams of aircraft flight paths on heavy combat days shown in this book are some of the best you will see. The text appears to be a rather updated version of that of "The Narrow Margin" and has been very well researched and written. It is not a complete chronology as the dates are embedded into the text so one has to search for any particular date. But it is worth having in the collection as it ranks in the 8 out of 10 category. Soft cover and 272 pages or hard cover and 208 pages although the hard covered book is much bigger.


TITLE: Fighter
AUTHOR: Len Deighton
ISBN: 0 7126 7423 3
PUBLISHER: Pimlico

This is arguably Len Deightons' finest book on the Battle of Britain and ranks up there with the best. It gets technical at times but is very easy to read. It covers everything from the leaders to the tools of trade, an account of the actual battle and the final chapter is devoted to something unlike a discussion paper on the results. Like many reference books, it lacks the all important quick reference appendix's so you have to delve through the pages to find small snippets of vital information quickly. Very well written in a way that is easily understood and like the book above, falls into that 8 out of 10 category. Soft covered version has 261 pages and 74 photographs.


TITLE: Finest Hour
AUTHOR: Tim Clayton & Phil Craig
ISBN: 0 340 75041 3
PUBLISHER: Hodder & Staughton

The period of the Battle of Britain comes to life in this book with a difference. It is the book of the BBC television series of the same name. It is not a book about tactics, it is not concerned about aircraft and bombs. It is a book about people. Basically it is a big collection of peoples stories, what they done, how they reacted, how they felt and how they went about their duties during this period of the war. Interviews and stories from Denis Wissler and Paul Ritchie of the RAF, Marion Holmes who was Winston Churchill's secretary, Peter Vaux and Ernie Leggett from the army, Ian Nethercott who was in the navy and WAAF Edith Heap who was engaged to Denis Wissler just prior to his going missing as well as many others. Excellent reference if you are looking for feelings and personal quotes. The personal testimonies are excellent in this hard cover book of 418 pages with numerous photographs.


TITLE: Chronology of World War Two
AUTHOR: Edward Davidson & Dale Manning
ISBN: 0 304 35309 4
PUBLISHER: Cassell

Not exactly a Battle of Britain reference book, but one that is very handy to have to find out what else was happening in other parts of the world at the same time. It is a book that once in a collection will very often be used. It covers the entire period of the second world war from 1939 to 1945. It is a hard cover book of 286 pages and is also illustrated. Not essential to have, but a complete diary of events that would most certainly be used at some stage or another.


TITLE: Dowding and Headquarters Fighter Command
AUTHOR: Peter Flint
ISBN: 1 85310 534 1
PUBLISHER: Airlife

We read so much about the Battle of Britain, fighter tactics and "The Few" have been synonymous with this period. Hugh Dowding and sometimes Bentley Priory are mentioned by name only. At last, Peter Flint has given us a deep look into the history and reconstruction of Bentley Priory and discloses much that is unknown to the average reader. An even greater insight into the life and time of ACM Sir Hugh Dowding discloses what sort of man he was, how he thought, what motivated him and the reasoning behind his many decisions. There is so much in this superb book that you will not find in other books on the Battle of Britain. A hard cover book with 222 pages and illustrated with 47, some very rare photographs.


TITLE: Battle of Britain - New Perspective's
AUTHOR: Dr John Ray
ISBN: 1 85409 229 4
PUBLISHER: Arms & Armour Press

Ten out of ten for this behind the scenes look at what went on in Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, and congratulations to Dr John Ray for many months of researching to not only bring to light many instances that had not been told before, but to elaborate further on many issues that other historians had mentioned only briefly. This book is compelling reading because we are enlightened of new facts that have come to light. It is well written and at most times is easily understood as it does become technical in places. This hard covered, 222 page book with 32 excellent photographs is a must for the serious and advanced researcher who needs to go deeper than normal.


TITLE: The Hardest Day - 18 August 1940
AUTHOR: Alfred price
ISBN: 0 304 35081 8
PUBLISHER: Cassell

Alfred Price has given us quite a number of books in the past, but this is the only one that is the story of just one day during the Battle of Britain. The author gives us in exceptional detail the events leading up to the attack on Kenley and Biggin Hill on August 18th 1940 both from the Luftwaffe point of view, the planning and the tactics to be used, and Fighter Command, totally unprepared yet were equal to the task at the moment of the attack. There are stories and interviews with many that were on duty that day and you can share the heartbreak and sorrow as they saw their airfields almost totally destroyed. Believed to be only in paperback with 223 pages, 84 photographs and 17 excellent diagrams make this an excellent research tool if you are making a study of the events at Kenley and Biggin Hill on August 18th 1940.


TITLE: Duel of Eagles
AUTHOR: Peter Townsend

Many of the Battle of Britain pilots have taken the task of writing books on their experiences. Richard Hillary wrote "The Last Enemy" in 1942 before he was killed the following year, and "Johnnie" Johnson wrote "Glorious Summer". Peter Townsend has written a couple of books, but this one, not based on personal experiences but based on the experiences of many of his colleagues plus the results of research into a number of events. "Duel of Eagles" looks at the air forces of both Britain and Germany and as it is all based on fact, is a true account, and the characters are all real. It can therefore be used as a reference book, and a good one at that. Exceptionally good reading and a worthwhile addition to any collection.


TITLE: Britain at War - Unseen Archives
AUTHOR: Maureen Hill/London Daily Mail
ISBN: 0 75255 661 4
PUBLISHER: Paragon

Britain was bombed during the Battle of Britain and it was to continue until the end in 1945. Anyone who is of British stock will most certainly be interested in this book, while anyone interested in the Battle of Britain may be interested in the effects that the bombing had on the British people. All the photographs, and there is over a thousand, and are from the archives of London's Daily Mail newspaper which most of these photographs have never been seen since there publication in the newspaper during those war years. Some were not even published because of censorship so this is the first time that they have been released. Each photograph is accompanied by a story or an extended caption that makes for interesting reading. We have read so much about the German bombing of Britain, now, through these wonderfully produced photographs we can see the results of that bombing and the destruction that they caused. But not all are about the bombing. Many are of life as it was, how the people coped in times of loss and hardship. A hard cover book of 390 pages and countless photographs. This is a gem.


TITLE: Aces High
AUTHOR: Christopher Shores/Clive Williams
ISBN: 1 898697 00 0
PUBLISHER: Grub Street

The very first edition of this book was published in 1966 and it created so much impact, especially amongst aviation enthusiasts that it quickly sold out and at much the same time went out of print. This original is now regarded as a collectors item. Then with a lot more information, far more accurate records this second edition of "Aces High" published in 1994 is a researchers dream. The book list all those pilots that are regarded as 'aces' during WWII. Each listing has the pilots name, rank and serial number above his profile. Underneath this is the full listing of all that pilots credits, including date, enemy aircraft type, damaged or destroyed, the pilots aircraft and number, where the action took place and the squadron the pilot belonged to. Essential to any enthusiast and historian. Also includes squadron histories. Hard cover of 664 pages with many photographs.


TITLE: Sir Keith Park
AUTHOR: Vincent Orange
ISBN: 0 413 49770 4
PUBLISHER: Methuen

No book collection on the Battle of Britain would really be complete without the autobiographies of the leaders. This is the complete story of Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park from his days as an artilleryman in 1915, a fighter pilot in 1917 through to taking control of 11 Group in Fighter Command, through the Battle of Britain period, his conflicts with Leigh-Mallory, his dismissal after the battle then right through until past his 80th birthday in New Zealand. It's an incredible story about a man who rose to power then the quick slide down. An early book of 1984 vintage, hard cover of 301 pages with 13 photographs.


TITLE: First Light
AUTHOR: Geoffrey Wellum
ISBN: 0-141-00814-8
PUBLISHER: Penguin

If ever there was a Battle of Britain fighter pilots story written in his own hand, then FIRST LIGHT has to be one of the best that has ever been seen on the bookshelves. That is, not to put down any of the other books written or based on the experiences of fighter pilots, but this book FIRST LIGHT is written in such a way that it is so easy to visualise what Geoffery is experiencing; you are there with him in every minute detail. Once you commence on the first chapter you will not want to put this book down until the very last page. From being a seventeen year old who simply wanted to fly and that he had just written to the Air Ministry and when Geoffrey walks down High Holborn and down to The Kingsway begins his deeply moving, often horrifying, often exciting yet compelling self portrait of Geoffrey Wellums' RAF experience through the Battle of Britain and continuing on throughout WWII. This Penguin book was published in 2003, contains 338 pages and includes 41 original Bamp;W photographs.